Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Media Myth - Whining about the Twins Farms System

I would put a link here, but no one should be encouraged to read the STRIB baseball coverage if anyone other than Pat Reusse is writing - and then only half of his stuff. Jim Souhan has an article today where he laments that lack of help the Twins have got from their minor leagues this season. He goes even further to suggest that the Twins are struggling because of poor first round draft choices 10 to 12 years ago. He further laments their trades. You might wonder how they have built a pennant contender with one of the younger rosters in the league.

The first problem with a discussion based on first round draft choices is that less than half the players taken in the first round of the major league draft ever appear in the big leagues. Let me be clear, that is not that they aren't very successful as major league players, but that no major league team is even willing to give them an opportunity during the regular season. If you go back 12 years, Ryan Mills and BJ Garbe are really the only first round choices by the Twins for whom this is true. Matt Moses looks like a likely addition to that list since he is still struggling to hit at AA six years after he was drafted. There are also four players picked between 2006-2009, Chris Parmelee, Ben Revere, Hicks and Gibson who no reasonable person would expect to be in the big leagues. The first three are all high school kids and not even Joe Mauer moved through the system that fast. Four of the remaining five players the Twins took in those 12 years have played in the big leagues, Adam Johnson, Matt Garza, Joe Mauer and Denard Span. The remaining first round draft choice in those 12 years was Trevor Plouffe, another high school kid who is at AAA this year.

Major Leagues

BJ Garbe
Ryan Mills

Possible Failures



At worst, the Twins success with their initial first round choices has been average and that is only true in the very unlikely event that Plouffe never plays in the big leagues. Of course the Twins have had some other first round choices - Perkins and Waldrop in 2004 and Gutierrez last year which would add a success (Perkins), an unknown (Gutierez) and a possible failure (Waldrop).

In addition, during that same period the Twins drafted and developed several players that have played roles in their success the last few years Morneau, Kubel, Blackburn, Slowey and Crain - all after the first round.

Of course Souhan is just following the whining narrative that has become the hallmark of the STRIB's Twins coverage. Whether its in the comments or the columns or the news, they twist the facts to fit that narrative.

Take the claim the Twins have got no help from the minor leagues this year. There is a short answer to that is Jose Mijares, without whom the Twins would likely be out of the pennant race. There is a long answer - that adds Mulvey, Duensing, Keppel, Swarzak, Morales and , most recently, Gabino to that list. Not all of those players have performed well. But four of those seven made their first appearances in the big leagues this year. The real problem is that the Twins did not have enough pitching to replace three starters (Slowey, Liriano and Perkins), two injured setup guys (Bonser and Neshek) and two failures (Ayala and Breslow). You can put guys like Humber, Keppel, Morillo, Dickey and Henn anywhere you want in that mix, there still is no case that the problem was a lack of depth in the minor leagues. The other problem is that they lacked infield prospects beyond Tolbert and Casilla who were already on the roster and struggling.

But the whine is not just about the lack of middle infield help this year. The whine is that this is somehow indicative of some long term failure (note the draft choices from 12 years ago on the list of complaints). But, far from lacking young prospects, last year the Twins added three virtual rookie starters (Slowey, Blackburn, Perkins), two virtual rookie outfielders (Span, Gomez) and a virtual rookie second baseman (Casilla). Not to mention Bonser in the bullpen and Buscher at third base.

Then there is the "bad trade" whine. Increasingly the Garza for Young trade looks like a mistake. The Twins pitching is struggling and Young's bat is not setting the world on fire. If either weren't true, it would be a lot less glaring a problem. But the whining about the Santana trade is a different issue. Obviously the Twins made a deal of the present for the future. Complaining about that trade now makes no more sense than a Mets fan complaining about it because Santana is having minor elbow surgery. No one was about to give the Twins immediate help that was the equivalent of Santana. The ultimate success of that trade will depend on how the young players obtained develop.

In short, the Twins are in the pennant race because of their player development, they have a lot of talent in their system and it will always get here too slowly providing apparent support for the STRIB (and other bloggers) whine.

Note: Names for Souhan and Moses were corrected


SethSpeaks said...

Great posting on several levels, TT.

I agree on the first round stuff. Fortunately the Twins have had great success throughout this decade, which means that they have not had a top 10 pick since Mauer in 2001. After the top 10, you can't be sure. Every team will have hits and misses in the draft. Along with all the players that the Twins have successfully drafted after the first round, their drafting has been just fine.

Also, I really like your point about so many players coming up to the Twins that, if starting pitchers were healthy or the bullpen was effective, would not be there.

Nick N. said...

Need to get your names straight. Jim Souhan is not Joe Soucheray and Matt Moses is not Moses Malone.

John said...

An excellent, reasoned, analytical reply. Well done. Thank you.

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